There are several multi-titled coaches in the PBA, such as Leo Austria, Norman Black, Tim Cone, Baby Dalupan, Yeng Guiao, Chot Reyes and Jong Uichico. In this series, we identify the all-time starting five of these seven coaches, choosing from all the players each one has ever coached.
Fiery. Intimidating. No-nonsense. These are words that have been used to describe Coach Joseller "Yeng" Guiao and his style of coaching. In a PBA coaching career that he admits started by virtue of a combination of luck, good timing, and "palakasan" (better connections), Coach Yeng has had his share of ups and downs, successes and failures, winning championships (seven, to be exact) and cellar-dwelling. Thirty years into his PBA coaching career, after taking the reins for six different squads and having a number of outstanding players, let us try to establish who among those players should make up his all-time starting five, plus a sixth man to complete the cast. Surely, all those listed below had/have the qualities Coach Yeng said he wants from anyone playing for him - outstanding effort, basic (if not exceptional) court smarts, and "buo ang loob" (a Filipino phrase meaning brave, confident, full of trust in oneself). Let's begin.
Power forward - 1992 Swift Mighty Meaties Nelson Asaytono
"The Bull" had some of his best years statistically while playing for the Swift Mighty Meaties under Guiao from 1992 to1994. Coming off an impressive three-year stint with Purefoods, the 6'4" Asaytono transferred to Swift in 1992 and immediately upped his production in practically all departments as the team's main man. He was the focal point on offense, posting up to bully his way to the cup for high-percentage shots, consistently hitting from the perimeter with almost impossible to block jumpers (what leaping ability!), and even occasionally stepping out beyond the arc for a few three-point bombs.
The former University of Manila Hawk was so good in the 1992 season and was clearly in the thick of the MVP race, which he eventually lost to San Miguel's Ato Agustin in what many will say was a controversial outcome, considering his superior statistics overall. He averaged a career second-best 22.4 points per game and career-best 8.2 rebounds per game, and even assisted more than twice every outing. He shot just a shade under sixty percent from the field and slightly under eighty percent from the line, where he was a frequent visitor due to his style of play. He even shot over fifty percent from rainbow territory with limited attempts. He ended the year as part of the Mythical Five, the first of three selections in his career, but before that, he capped off his grandest season under Guiao with a championship in the Third Conference, teaming up with Tony Harris in a 4-0 sweep of the 7-Up Uncolas.
Shooting guard - 2003 Red Bull Thunder Willie Miller
"The Thriller" was the first overall pick in the 2001 PBA Draft, selected by Red Bull Barako before Guiao's second year as the team's head coach. After a so-so rookie year, Miller had an MVP season in 2002, winning the season's top honor despite averaging a modest 9.7 points per game and one championship. It was, however, in his third, and last, season with Red Bull that he had his best numbers under Guiao. Dazzling fans and outwitting defenders with deceptive quickness, Miller skipped, spun, and sped on offense to put points on the board. He had a fairly reliable outside shot (33% on threes), but Miller's main weapons were post-ups, dribble penetrations, and short-range lefty shots. He also loved to run out on the break and keep the transition defense guessing which way he would go.
As much of a threat as the Olongapo native was offensively, he played bulldog defense as he used his combination of quickness, strength, and bulk to stifle opponents. The 5'11" Miller ended up being named to the All-Defensive Team at the end of the season while averaging 14.2 points per game, an impressive four and a half rebounds per game as a guard, and more than three assists.
Center - 2002 Red Bull Thunder Davonn Harp
Harp is practically a forgotten man in PBA discussions because of the controversy surrounding not only his entry into the league but his abrupt exit as well. He came and went too quickly that fans tend to forget that he did put up impressive numbers during his short stint in the PBA from 2000 to 2005. A direct-hire from the amateur ranks by Guiao and Red Bull upon their entry into the PBA in 2000, Harp was an intimidating physical specimen. A legitimate 6'7" with a wide body and broad shoulders, he always found a way to get to the basket and finish. Quick for his size, he oftentimes received the ball at or near the free throw line, then made his way to the basket with one or two dribbles. He was named Rookie of the Year and helped the team to its first championship in the 2001 Commissioner's Cup.
In 2002, he was taken from the Red Bull lineup to form part of the 24-man national team pool, which was divided into teams, Hapee and Selecta. He missed the entire first conference, but he returned in the second after begging off from further national team duty despite the fact that he had made the cut to be part of the final 12 of national coach Jong Uichico. Upon his return to the Thunder lineup, he was back to business as usual, doing what he had been doing, but this time at a higher level. Teaming up with eventual season MVP Miller to form a formidable one-two punch, Red Bull repeated as Commissioner's Cup champions, where Harp was named Finals MVP. Harp finished the season as a member of the Mythical Five and as the Defensive Player of the Year. His numbers outshined Miller's, but his missed first conference was telling on any MVP aspirations. While the per season statistics of Harp are unavailable, his career averages of 13.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game give a glimpse of just how formidable he was, especially in his most successful season, 2002.
Point guard - 2014-2015 Rain or Shine Elastopainters Paul Lee
The "Lethal Weapon" or "Angas ng Tondo" had his, numbers-wise, most lethal and "pinaka-maangas" season in 2014-2015. Already a grizzled veteran by that time after convincingly winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2012 and increasing his production from year-to-year, Lee had become Guiao's main ball-handler and distributor, one of his chief gunners, and surely one of the options in the end-game. There is no denying the former UE Warrior's capabilities from the beyond the arc (career 35%), but in the 2014-2015 season, injury-free and free to attack, Lee continued to progress as a penetrator who loves contact before the basket, earning multiple and-1 opportunities. Among guards, he would frequent the free throw stripe because he dared to venture inside amidst the trees and take the contact. Despite all the banging he would take, Lee could dish it out as well.
That season, he averaged the most minutes in his ROS stint (still just 27.6 mpg), and, as a result, he raised his scoring by more than two points over the previous season (13 to 15.6ppg), grabbed a career-high 4.5 rebounds per game, and still managed 3.3 assists each time the team played. He shot just slightly below forty percent from three-point territory. Rain or Shine did not win a championship that season, although the team reached the finals of the Commissioner's Cup, losing in a tough, tightly-fought double overtime seventh game. Lee was named to the Mythical Five for the first time in his career after the season and garnered the PBA Order of Merit for being named Player of the Week the most number of times throughout the season. His numbers dipped the next season as he again battled injuries, but Rain or Shine won the 2016 Commissioner's Cup and he was named Finals MVP.
Small forward - 2010-2016 Rain or Shine Elastopainters Gabe Norwood
While the rest of the players on this list had a particularly outstanding season under Guiao, Gabe Norwood (under Guiao from 2010-2016) had what can be called a consistently productive career under him. Norwood's best scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals numbers came before Guiao took over as Rain or Shine coach. However, Norwood's value had never been in terms of numbers. In the five seasons the two were together came the greatest success of the franchise, and Gabe was a huge part of it. As Guiao himself said recently on An Eternity of Basketball, Norwood is probably the steadiest player he has ever handled. "He's not only intelligent, but his emotional quotient is very high. That's the important thing. Open-minded, very coachable." It would be an injustice to gauge the contributions of Norwood based on numbers alone. Overall under Guiao, Gabe averaged about a modest eight points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal per game, but as any discerning basketball observer would know, that's not the full story.
A consistent all-star, Norwood was on both Guiao's Rain or Shine championship squads (2012, 2016). He is also a frequent flyer on the All-Defensive Team (four times while under Guiao), as defense has always been his signature. The George Mason University alum was the team captain of ROS and a vocal leader and leader by example. He was the so-called "glue-guy" throughout his partnership with Guiao and for the most part, the Elastopainters were a hard-working, hard-fighting, entertaining team throughout their partnership. Plus, he's a nice guy, too (three-time Samboy Lim Sportsmanship Awardee, although post-Guiao). It would be impossible not to include Norwood, whom Guiao himself acknowledged was one of his top players, on this list.
Sixth man - 1992 Swift Mighty Meaties Al Solis
Guiao wanted Al Solis badly to make his Swift team an immediate contender. When Purefoods did not match the offer sheet Swift had given Solis, the Mighty Meaties quickly took in the Cebuano guard. Blending in immediately with a formidable lineup composed of also newly-acquired Asaytono (also via Purefoods) and Rudy Distrito (from Ginebra), Yoyoy Villamin, and Andy de Guzman, Solis became an orchestrator and clutch scorer for the team. He loved getting out on the break and was an able finisher on the run, but his deadly three-point sniping was his primary offensive weapon. With the University of the Visayas guard providing on-court leadership, Swift's record improved in each conference, culminating in a championship sweep in the third, only the second Finals 4-0 sweep in PBA history at the time. Solis earned the first of his two straight Mythical Five selections, both while playing for Guiao.